by Sophie Bachard
All day my neighbour Bennett (a redundant Geography teacher) traipsed round our council housing-estate alleyways, trying for the exit. I watched him from my balcony. By nightfall, he’d collapsed, defeated.
From floor 8, I can see the whole quadrant. Excellent viewing of a graffiti-garnished concrete maze, in the back of Wandsworth, which we call Ringworm.
Up by the alarm at dawn, I rushed to my pigeon-shit splattered balcony, homed in with binoculars to watch our trapped specimen ranting and flapping his filthy-raincoat arms about in the drizzle. He collapsed from exhaustion much earlier than on the previous day, about mid-day.
Wednesday the same thing happened.
And Thursday ...
... Friday ...
On Sunday, I spied him standing in a pestilential dead-end, broken-glass, piss-stained mattress, skulls of slaughtered stray cats, his head down in defeat, spittle on incipient beard.
Later in the hall I met up with other jobless poverty-trapped neighbours and we sat on my vertiginous balcony until dusk, drinking and poking fun at him. When he finally collapsed, everybody cheered and hooted, and then trooped back to their flats, promising to come again.
Finally, day ten, he stumbled back into the quadrant, looking malnourished and half-insane. Everybody on my floor came out to the hallway and mockingly applauded as he trudged up to his flat.
I didn’t see Bennett again until about a week later when I met him on the rainy quadrant. He confirmed the failure of his “experiment” to explode the urban myth that it was possible to leave Ringworm. “There is no escape from this stinking council housing estate,” he said.
I could have told him that.
...this lament dispatched by carrier pigeon ...
Copyright © 2007 by Sophie Bachard